(Photo credit Vince Bucci/FOX) The "American Idol" finale drew its lowest audience since 2002 as an estimated 24.2 million viewers tuned in to watch Lee DeWyze beat Crystal Bowersox, according to preliminary ratings figures on Thursday.
The audience for the ninth season finale on the Fox network on Wednesday shrank from 28.8 million last year and 31.6 million in 2008. Only the first season of "American Idol", in the summer of 2002, drew a smaller audience with 22.8 million.
"American Idol" has retained its crown as America's most-watched show for the seventh consecutive year. But audiences fell by about 9 percent this season and the TV singing competition on Wednesday lost one of its biggest attractions with the exit of British judge Simon Cowell.